Love:  What It Is And Is Not--by Kimberly B. Southall

Please note: Each scripture is linked to The Bible Gateway.  Scriptures will open in a separate window in your browser while this window will also remain open.  You can click back and forth between the two windows.  Once you have read all of the scriptures, you can close that window.

Each of us has his own ideas of what love is. Sometimes the thought of love brings pleasant feelings to mind; sometimes it brings painful ones. Usually, though, when we think of love, we think of a feeling. Is that what love is? No, true love is an action rather than a feeling. There are several passages of scripture which command us to love (Matthew 5:43-44; Matthew 19:18-19; Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 6:27, 35; Luke 10:27; John 13:34; John 15:12, 17; Romans 13:9; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Galatians 5:14; Ephesians 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:25, 33; Colossians 3:14; Colossians 3:19; Titus 2:4; James 2:8; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:21). This makes it apparent that love is an action rather than a feeling. The Bible describes love for us:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. . . 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

When you say that you love someone, is the above description true of your relationship with the one you claim to love? Think of your relationships with those you loveyour husband or wife, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, etc. Do they know from your actionsthe ones mentioned abovethat you love them?

What Love Is

If you truly love someone, then several qualities will be present in your relationship with him. (The words "her" and "she" can also be substituted for "him" and "his" throughout this article to be appropriate for all of those whom you love.)

  • Love is patient. You will patiently remember that he is only human the same as you are, and that everyone makes mistakes just like you do. When he errs, you will forgive him the way that you would like to be forgiven. You will consider his interests to be just as important as your own, because he is just as important as you are.
  • Love is kind. You will give him the same consideration that you would like to be given. You will speak with words and a tone that you would like to hear if you were the one being spoken to and treat him the way you wish to be treated. You will make the effort to meet him at least halfway, because that is the way that you would also like to be treated. You will always give consideration to his feelings, because he matters to you.
  • Love rejoices with the truth. When he accomplishes something good, you will be happy for him and celebrate with him. It will be just as important to you as if you as your own achievements.
  • Love always protects. His safety, reputation, and feelings will be of utmost importance to you. You will never intentionally do anything that would endanger his physical health or well-being. In addition, you will be just as protective of his mental and spiritual well-being. No one else will ever hear you say destructive things to or about him. Everyone has room for improvement, so your words are designed to build him up rather than to tear him down. You have his best interests at heart and want to protect his reputation and his feelings, because they are just as important as yours.
  • Love always trusts. You will have confidence in him the way he should you. You will remember that, even when he makes a mistake or hurts your feelings, he didn't set out to do so on purpose. You will forgive and wipe the slate clean. You will push jealous, suspicious, doubting, and skeptical thoughts out of your mind where he is concerned, and give him the same "benefit of the doubt" that you would like to receive from him.
  • Love always hopes.You will have faith in him and your relationship with him. You will have confidence that he is capable of being a good person and accomplishing great things and you give encouragement in that direction. You will look toward a continued thriving relationship with him in the future.
  • Love always perseveres. Even when the bad things come, you will stick with him no matter what. You will be there to share the joys and tears. You will be there to give comfort and to be comforted. Through thick and thin, you will face whatever comes your way together.
Is all of this true of the ones you claim to love? It ought to be, because that is what God's Word says love is.

What Love Is Not

In addition, if you truly love someone, then several qualities will be absent in your relationship with him.

  • Love does not envy. Because you have his best interests at heart, you won't resent anything he has or anything he accomplishes. You will be glad when he is happy.
  • Love does not boast. You will not say boastful things which might tempt him to be envious. You will humbly remember that you are no better than he is, and therefore you will never say anything that would put him down in order to elevate yourself.
  • Love is not proud. You will not allow your pride to get in the way, because your relationship with him is much more important than your pride. You will not think so much of yourself or your desires that he or his desires are belittled. When you make a mistake, you will readily admit it and be genuinely apologetic.
  • Love is not rude. You will remember how important he is to you and will treat him with respect and dignity. Your considerate words and your actions will be evidence of how important he is to you.
  • Love is not self-seeking. You will consider his needs and desires to be as important as your own. You will never strive to get what you want if it means hurting him.
  • Love is not easily angered. You will not jump to conclusions where he is concerned. You will calmly get the facts before you form an opinion about anything he has done, failed to do, and/or his motives. Rather than pass judgment, you will calmly discuss the problem with him and use only "constructive" criticism which will serve to correct the situation.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs. You will remember that in the same way you forgive him, you will be forgiven for your shortcomings. (See Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; Luke 11:4; Colossians 3:13.) Therefore, you will not dredge up past shortcomings and sins when you are angry. You will realize that, just like you, he can only live in the present and deal with the here-and-now.
  • Love does not delight in evil. When something goes wrong in his life, you will not take delight in his misfortuneeven if he somehow brought the situation upon himself. Instead, when he faces trouble, you will face it with him, lending encouragement and help whenever possible.
Are all of these factors also true of the one you claim to love? According to God's Word, it ought to beif you really love that person.

Do You Really Love?

After reviewing all of those factors of what love is and is not, do you really love those you claim to? Remember, love isn't just a feelingit is an action. Do your actions make it clear that you love the ones you claim to? Surely, each of us falls short in one or more of the actions of love. Keep the characteristics of love in mind and put them into practice as you interact with others, because as God's Word assures us, love never fails!

Copyright © 2002 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.